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Seven secrets to merchandising success

June 15, 2010  By John Stanley

merchandiseWEB EXCLUSIVE

Seven secrets to merchandising success
A lot has been written of late about the power of the
social network and how it can be used by retailers to grow sales.

June 15, 2010 – A lot has been written of late about the power of the
social network and how it can be used by retailers to grow sales. I am
a believer that this will be the marketing tool of the future, but we
should not forget that how the merchandise story is to put together in
store is still the most important way of convincing the consumer to


The way you merchandise and display has a large impact on the return on
floor space in the  garden centre. The challenge is what can you do to
make your displays stand out from the crowd.

Take a walk down any main street shopping area and you will walk past
some displays and not even notice what they have on offer and then you
will stop at others and go WOW. Your job is to build those WOW displays
that make the consumer stop and stare and then feel they must purchase
the product on offer.

So what makes you go WOW and how can you ensure that your customers do the same when they look at your displays?

These are my seven essential secrets that can make a difference, you
may say that they are not secrets, but common sense. Take a look at the
displays in your business and challenge yourself to critique them as a
customer and are they saying WOW to the consumer.
Secret Number One….. Stay Fresh

All retailers are in the freshness industry. The display must look
fresh to the consumer. This means you need a plan to ensure that the
displays stay fresh. Staleness appears when the customer walks in and
sees the same display as they saw last time. This means the display
should be changed based on the average customer visit turn around. In
winter you may get away with keeping a display on a location for six
weeks, but in spring that display may need to change weekly.

I recently worked with a garden centre client where the nursery
suppliers guaranteed a weekly


"Your job is to build those WOW displays

that make the consumer stop and stare

and then feel they must purchase

product on offer."

supply of product, yet the stock holding
meant that plants could be held for five weeks. Freshness is also about
having the product look fresh and if you can stock less and turn it
over quicker than this is an added bonus. Keeping it fresh may mean
holding less stock at any one time, but having a larger range of
products over the year.
Secret Number Two….Keep it Topical

Many customers buy for now and therefore your displays need to be
topical. What events are coming up that you can celebrate with the
customer? The key is not the horticultural or seasonal events as every
retailer should be doing that as part of their display strategy. What
can you do that is topical in the consumer's world that you could
relate to plants?

These events could, for example revolve around:
-The Oscars, you could select and promote your own Oscar plants around the film Oscars
-The World Football Cup, you could select plants from the different
countries and build them into a display and change the displays as the
world cup evolved. I have seen this done exceptionally well in High
Street retailing, but never adapted to the garden industry.

When clothing fashion colours are released you could bring this theme
into the plant area and have a plant fashion show that relates to this
year’s colours.
Secret Number Three…Be Interactive
Interactive displays get the consumer involved with the product.
Tasting stations on displays in boutique fruit and vegetable shops have
refined this and they know it will grow sales. Being interactive in the
garden industry can be a bit more challenging, but those that crack
this one will find sales increase considerably. One garden centre I
work with has an interactive “theatre station” in the garden centre. It
is located in a prime sight line and is used as a potting station or a
demonstration area on pruning or for talks provided by the team members
or suppliers. The key is it is versatile and can be used for a number
of functions. Plus the team know it is a key area in the centre and
therefore they ensure that there is always an activity talking place
when consumers are around. If it was static, it would be a drain on the
business rather than an asset.
Secret Number Four…Provide Education
People come to a garden centre to learn. They want to know more about
how to be better gardeners or to obtain more information about plants.
This does not mean that we need to pump them with technical
information, but to provide knowledge in an entertaining way. Provide
them with interesting facts about the plants that are on display, a
“did you know” sign on the plant can create the desired interest.
For example:
Did you know this plant was used to make paper? (Tetrapanax papyriferus)
Did you know this is the Camellia used to make tea? (Camellia sinensis)
Did you know this plant is the world’s largest herb? (Banana)
Secret Number Five…Solutions
I have mentioned solutions retailing in previous articles, but it is
worth recapping here that by providing solutions we can grow the
average sale and word of mouth marketing. A display that provides a
solution is a great way of growing sales. The key is to position two
products together to provide the solution. It may be an opportunity to
multi sell plants. For example a ground cover display with signage that
indicates that if you plants six plants per square yard or metre then
you could cover that ugly piece of ground in two years and save time in
the garden.
Secret Number Six…Humour

Put a smile on the customers face with humour. If the consumer leave
your business happier than when they came in you have achieved a great
deal in their lives and they are more likely to come back to your
garden centre. Have at least one display in your garden centre that
provides a smile. The humour can come through the way you have built
the display or the signage you use. Give your team permission to build
some humour into a display.
Secret Number Seven…Be Colourful
We are in the colour industry, people buy plants to cheer themselves up
and they will buy colour. Create simple, but effective colour displays.
This may mean painting the bench to match or complement the display or
using colour drapes. Build colour in and you will catch the consumers

johnstanley11John Stanley is WA Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 and his business JSA is WA Small Business Champion – Education 2009.  He is an acclaimed conference speaker, retail consultant and author.  For more information on how he can help your business grow, visit his resource-site or email

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